Director: Craig Lahiff
Starring: David Lyons, Emma Booth, Jason Clarke and Travis McMahon
It can often be difficult to decipher the motivations and feelings of people you barely know, as their inspirations can be quite different from what you expect. That’s certainly the case for not only the characters’ interactions with each other in the Australian crime dram thriller ‘Swerve,’ from writer-director Craig Lahiff, but also the filmmaker’s intentions for the story. While the actors in the film formed genuine, gripping working relationships that continuously question their characters’ truthfulness, at times Lahiff’s story unfortunately comes across as confusing.
‘Swerve’ follows Colin (David Lyons), a drifter traveling across the Australian desert for a job interview. After taking a short cut, he comes across a fatal car accident, involving the shaken Jina (Emma Booth), one of the drivers in the crash. When Colin inspects the other car, he discovers the driver didn’t survive the accident, but has a briefcase of money by his side. The cash came from a drug deal gone wrong.
After driving Jina Home, Colin travels into the closest town to report the accident and return the money to the police. Local officer Frank (Jason Clarke) is suspicious of the accident after visiting the crash site with Colin. Determined to find the money’s owner, the officer invites the drifter home. Once they arrive, Colin is startled to learn Jina is married to Frank, and is intent on leaving him.
Unbeknownst to the trio, after the deceased driver fails to deliver the money, trouble-shooter Charlie (Travis McMahon) arrives in town. Not only does he want to clean up the mess, but he also wants to find who took the money.
As both the writer and director of ‘Swerve,’ Lahiff deserves credit for attempting to create an enthralling crime thriller that’s suspensefully fueled with diverse relationships, which continuously leaves questions over the true dynamic and motivations of the characters. Lyons effectively fed into the story’s intrigue by playing Colin as initially being a Good Samaritan by returning the money to the police. However, Colin interestingly turned on his good intentions when Jina began pulling him into her scheme to leave Frank. The drifter became fascinatingly captivated by the officer’s wife, representing the desire to fully uncover her motivations on leaving Frank, and how she was truly connected to the car accident.
Booth was the other stand-out performer in the crime thriller, as she coyly played Jina as superficially only taking whatever means necessary to secure her independence from Frank. After she captures Colin’s attention by instinctively using her sly charm and beauty, the actress carefully lets Jina’s guard down to reveal to the drifter what her marriage to frank is really like. Booth and Lyons developed a genuine, gripping working relationship on screen that continuously leaves the question open over how truthful Colin and Jina are being, and what they truly mean to each other.
Despite the enthralling dynamic between the actors on screen, particularly between Colin and Jina, Lahiff’s story at times came across as confusing. While the filmmaker was right to not initially reveal all the characters’ secrets and motivations, particularly linked to the accident, the prolonged secret of how some of the characters fit into the plot and with each other made their actions confusing. With Charlie’s hidden agenda of why he’s following Frank and Jina after the accident, for example, the character appeared to be incorporated into the story just to add more action sequences. Not revealing at least some of the characters’ true inspirations made the battle sequences between them feel somewhat contrived.
While the characters’ actions surrounding the car accident and drug money are at times muddled and unclear, production designer Tony Cronin created unique sets that powerfully highlighted the situations they unwittingly found themselves in. The desolate, run-down bar Colin visits across from the bleak police station subtly stresses the lack of crime in the deserted town. But Cronin intriguingly created a fortified, luxurious home for Frank and Jina, complete with an extravagant swimming pool, to showcase how even the most appealing outward appearances can be the most deceiving. Colin found more authentic, telling answers about the accident from strangers at the seedy bar he inadvertently strolls into than the appealing house Frank and Jina share.
Through his creative script and direction, Lahiff truly tried to create an enthralling crime thriller that’s suspensefully fueled with diverse relationships. The actors in the crime thriller, particularly Lyons and Booth, formed genuine, gripping working relationships that continuously question how truthful the characters are being. While the filmmaker also deserves credit for exploring how the characters’ determination to hide their involvement in the car accident, Lahiff’s story at times came across as confusing. With the prolonged secret of how some of the characters fit into the plot and with each other, made their actions came off as questionable. But with the help of Cronin creating unique sets that powerfully highlighted the situations the characters unwittingly found themselves in, the filmmaker was still able to showcase the tire situations the characters ultimately found themselves in.
Written by: Karen Benardello